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Mujeres Luchadoras

A HUGE thank you to everyone that has helped UPAVIM since the COVID crisis began. We are so grateful for your support! In unison with COVID-specific fundraising, we are currently running our annual Scholarship campaign as well. We are not sure what next year will bring, but we are hoping to be able to help our scholarship recipients in 2021. If you would like to help, please click here.

On behalf of the UPAVIM Community Development Foundation, we would like to recognize a few of the very many Super Heroes at UPAVIM who are fighting for their community despite the personal and professional challenges of COVID-19.

Below are some UPAVIM updates as told by the Mujeres Luchadoras themselves! As always, and especially now more than ever, thank you for your love and support as we all work together to empower our communities.  

Johana Mendez is the nurse at UPAVIM who has continued to provide critical medical services to the community despite great risk to herself and her family. 

I have been living with fear and uncertainty because of the current pandemic. I am taking medication to be able to push through so that I can provide essential health services to my community, family and friends.I am constantly afraid that I will bring the virus home to my family. To combat the virus I use protective equipment and social distancing when attending to clients. I have hope that we will return to normal and live in community with each other as did before the virus.





Lili Perez runs the bakery that helps keep food on the table for many families in the La Esperanza community at an affordable cost. Lili is working hard to provide safe food services to her neighbors. 

I have been working at UPAVIM for the past 19 years. I am currently a member of the local Board of Directors as a representative for the Crafts department and I work in the bakery selling bread to the community everyday. 

I have six children, four sons and two daughters. When I was pregnant with my fifth child, my husband had an accident and was killed. I was left with the urgent necessity to find a job and support my children. Thanks to God I had the opportunity to work for UPAVIM in the Crafts department. I knew how to sew from working at a factory a few years before. I did struggle at first learning how to do the work with the right amount of dedication and love. I started learning and improving and bringing home bigger paychecks. Now, thanks to God with the salary I have earned at UPAVIM I have been able to support my children and help them succeed. I have 3 children who have graduated from school. One is a Physical Education Teacher, another is a Digital Artist, and the other is continuing with one more year of schooling. My son who is in the Ninth Grade has a physical disability and my youngest daughter is in the Fourth Grade. I am thankful to everyone who has supported UPAVIM in its mission as it has helped our community to provide for our children. God has blessed me with this job especially since I am a single mother. We may not have many things but what we do have has been given to me by God and I have been fortunate to have dignified work to support my family. I am so happy to be part of the UPAVIM family. 

With the Global Pandemic our business has suffered but in my family we have all been healthy. I was nervous when I had a cold for a couple days but thanks to God, it was not anything worse. COVID has affected us a lot in terms of the economy. I could not work on the handcrafts that I produce due to the government shut down. That caused a hit to my family as that source of income was not available for a time. I am thankful that I still had my salary from working in the bakery although it was not enough to cover all of our living expenses. I use the money from making crafts to buy the medicine that my son needs for his disability. It is a critical medicine that he has to have for his seizures. 

Thanks to God I have had the work from the bakery that has not been affected greatly by the pandemic. It is a source of food for the community and everyone has been able to continue buying their bread. We did have to change our working hours to meet the curfew requirements set by the government. It has been a blessing to work for the community in its time of need. I want to recognize the excellent work done by the bakers in these times. They have to wake up very early in the morning and work hard all day long. We had to obtain permission to be able to stay at work a little bit later than allowed to complete our work and serve our clients well. I have no complaints as I have thankfully been able to continue working. 

We have actually been able to sell more bread since COVID than before. So we have benefited by that. We strive to make sure we are doing everything well and safely so we can continue serving our community. I have hope that we will all continue working and that our global situation will see some change. I hope that life can return to the way it was before. The most important thing for UPAVIM will be to continue receiving orders for crafts and producing our handmade products for our clients. With dedication and strength I have faith that we will be able to push through these difficult times. 

My child with the disability has struggled the most with the current situation but I’m thankful that my other children have been able to get through with a bit of hard work. I want to thank the Foundation and its supporters for contributing to the salaries of my colleagues who were not able to continue working. God bless you for the immense help you have given us. I feel so fortunate and undeserving to have a source of employment and a salary when so many are struggling to survive during this pandemic. I want to thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. 

Sonia Reyes works as a designer and coordinator for the handcrafts department. She has been pushing through illness to support the artisans as they continue to produce the beautiful crafts we love. 

In the crafts department, thanks to God we are now working everyday with reduced hours, from 7:30 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Previously we were only able to work three days a weevirus but we continue to have faith in God. We are so thankful that we have been paid throughout the pandemic and we believe that this too will pass so we can return to work and live as we did before the virus. 



Alisa Woofter recently took over our U.S.-based product sales and distribution. She has been a blessing to UPAVIM as she pushes through the pandemic to promote the women and their work. 

I am settling into my position with UPAVIM and I love it.  We have made many technological changes over the past year which has really put us in a good position to weather the COVID storm. 

The pandemic has limited my travel which is sad because I really enjoy and value visits to Guatemala.  I look forward to getting back there as soon as possible to continue to build relationships with the women and develop systems to help grow UPAVIM.  I work from home primarily and my husband and two young daughters are also in the house all the time.  Fortunately, this seems to work very well for us and has eliminated some stresses in commutes and transporting the girls around.  My mother and mother-in-law have been great help with the children.  They started school and we were fortunate enough to partner with another family to create a learning pod.  This has been stressful as we try to make the best decisions for our children. Overall, I am very fortunate to have my health, home and family.  

On the other hand, I am seeing how COVID has affected artisans in Latin America and this is a major worry for me.  I also work on a project in Mexico.  The father in the family workshop we work with died from COVID recently. It is surprising how fast it can become deadly and the loss and ramification in the community for the family are horrible.  In Guatemala, it is apparent to me that COVID has only made life more challenging for the women and their families.  Most do not have social or government safety nets like we do in the US.  Vigilante justice, gang threats, lack of health care, hunger, lack of transportation, loss of jobs are just a few issues that most are dealing with daily.   I worry that this pandemic will have severe lasting implications throughout Latin America for many years. 

UPAVIM's U.S. sales took a big hit in March and April, however our sales have fortunately rebounded over the last couple months with the introduction of face masks and other COVID accessories. We have been working only one person at a time in the warehouse due to the pandemic and luckily no one has tested positive. There have been several times where someone was potentially exposed through friends or roommates. This, at times, has slowed down our shipping. It has also been more of a challenge to manage production and shipping from Guatemala due to the conditions and shutdowns there. I am so proud of the team in Guatemala as we adjust and successfully work around the current situation.

I am very hopeful that we can continue to grow UPAVIM sales to benefit the women and school in Guatemala.  The last 6 months has made us pivot and find ways to survive.  These changes have made us stronger.